What kind of question would you like answered?

Q: If Margo is so concerned about fairly capitalizing all words, why doesn’t she capitalize letters in the middle of words?

I think she is concerned about the words, not the letters. Maybe I should’ve had her be concerned about the letters. That would’ve been a little more metaphorically resonant.


Q: Well, she says herself that she feels like traditional rules of capitalization are unfair to the words in the middle.

Well, she says herself that she feels like traditional rules of capitalization are unfair to the words in the middle. Margo is super concerned with the way that people’s conformity and lack of intellectual curiosity makes life less interesting than it ought to be, and this seemed like a good (and very teenage) expression of her concern.

(That said, there are very good reasons why we do not capitalize random words in the middle of sentences.)

Q: Is Margo supposed to be Jewish?

This is one of those, “God I wrote that book so long ago” questions. I assumed that Margo and Q were both Jewish, but if it is not explicitly stated as such in the text, then my assumptions should be irrelevant. (I thought it was in the text at one point? But maybe not? I don’t know. God I wrote that book so long ago.)

“After writing this answer, someone on tumblr mentioned that she uses her Bat Mitzvah money for her escapades, so she IS Jewish!”

A. Aha! So she IS Jewish!

Q: Can you explain the significance of Margo’s name?

Margo’s name has go in it; I guess that’s probably the reason I chose it. Her last name, Spiegelman, means “mirror maker” in German—like, the guy in the German villages who made the mirrors was the spiegelman. And Margo functions as a mirror to the other characters in the novel: What they see when they look at Margo ends up saying a lot more about them than it says about Margo herself.

Roth once meant red in German, and I wanted to give Margo (in the subtlest way possible since I have a color name and I didn’t want people connecting her to me) a color name, because so much of the imagery in the novel is either black (black Santas) or white (the great white wall of cow).

The black things in the novel tend to be expressions of how human endow things with meaning, whether well or poorly; the white things tend to be things that are menacingly void of meaning and totally apathetic to us (the walls of the school, the cow).

Q: Is the reader supposed to like Margo?

I don’t really think characters need to be likable for stories to be worth reading.

To quote myself: “I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books a supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of crating great stories that make your brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaarr.”

Did I intend Margo to be likable? I intended her to be complex. I wanted her to be someone the reader could learn to empathize with, someone who makes very different decisions from most of us but whose decisions have a kind of internal consistency and integrity that makes them morally defensible. (She can of course be very shallow and selfish, but I would argue that basically all of us are shallow and selfish.)

Mostly, I wanted the reader to be conscious that they are only seeing Margo through Q’s eyes, and that Q—at least for much of the novel—knows absolutely nothing about the girl he says he loves.